Interview: You Won’t
You Won’t was Magic Teepee’s chosen artist to feature on the inaugural PORTALS Mixtape #1. They’re dropping their debut album Skeptic Goodbye (Old Flame) on 2/14/12 (yup, the day of love). Given there isn’t much out there about Josh and Raky beyond a handful of amazing rhythmic folk jams, I figured what better than to make my first PORTALS post an interview with You Won’t. I hope nothing but the best for these guys in 2012!
• Where did the band name You Won’t come from?
When I was seventeen my friends Billy, Ian, and I staged an avant-garde performance for our high school’s band night. We were theater kids and did not actually have a band. We performed in whiteface and spat on each other whilst crooning such incendiary original tunes as “Why Taliban Why?” and “Donald Rumsfeld is a Hypocritical War-Mongering Fatcat Liar,” the latter delivered by Billy in Christopher Walken voice. We called ourselves You Won’t after the idiotic phrase our homophobic meat-headed brethren would use to issue a challenge or dare. I was always fond of the name so I once I started an actual band it was an obvious choice.
• Where do you guys currently live? What’s the music scene like there?
We live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I can’t speak much to the local music scene but I will say that Johnny Allen from local band Fedavees runs a really great Monday-night free show series at this cozy bar called ZuZu. It’s called Night of the Living Deadhead. It’s a friendly atmosphere and not a bad option for touring bands since there’s usually a crowd of regulars.
• Where does You Won’t draw influence from? Can you talk specifically about a few songs from your upcoming release.
Raky had been playing me a lot of West African stuff before we recorded “Three Car Garage”, the first track on the album. The bass and guitar lines are certainly a nod in that direction. His knowledge of Sacred Harp music came into play for our song “Television” and resulted in the very spare stompy clappy arrangement we ended up with there. And we couldn’t figure out how to record “Dance Moves” until I showed Raky “Never Had Nobody Like You”, that shuffly M. Ward song from a few years back. Thanks Matt!
• What was the first instruments you guys learned how to play? Any good or bad music related childhood memories?
I learned how to play guitar on my dad’s 1965 Fender Mustang, Kurt Cobain’s model of choice. Raky learned the drums from a member of the Blue Man Group house band and almost weaseled his way into the show at age 16 (the higher-ups balked at hiring a minor). In high school Raky invited me to join his Jeff Buckley cover band but during my only performance with the group I panicked and blanked on all the chords. Luckily I was one of three guitarists so I ingeniously turned my volume all the way down and pantomimed the rest of the show. Everyone said I looked very professional.
• Explain the recording process of your upcoming release.
We basically holed up at this house in a small town in Eastern Massachusetts and did nothing else for about three months straight. It was just the two of us and a lot of trial and error. We had never really recorded electric instruments before so figuring that out was a huge challenge. There were numerous moments of total despair when I was sure that everything we had done was useless. You know, normal artist stuff. It was easy to feel a bit bonkers sometimes, surrounded by trees in a town where we didn’t know anyone, working on this thing that no one else had any knowledge of. I half-expected someone to wander in like Shelley Duvall and discover that we had painstakingly recorded twenty-seven hours of me singing “LA LA LA ROCK N ROLL!!” or something along those lines.
• Talk about your film session in the Calvary Cemetery in Brooklyn.
We met the people from Secret Sound Shop at a performance for the Songs from a Room listening room series in Brooklyn last July. They were just starting up the blog and asked if we might like to do a session with them. We said YES! and suggested Calvary Cemetery, which we had utilized for a film shoot several years earlier and remembered fondly for its absurdly ostentatious tombs and towering headstones. The Secret Sound crew are really nice folks and I highly recommend working with them. The video has been a great way to introduce people to our stuff.
• When You Won’t gets huge, what ridiculous requests will be on your rider?
15-pound block of extra sharp cheddar cheese. 20-pound bag of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. A purple paper papal cowl. Batting cage in the green room, and Marlon Brando’s ashes in a gilded salad bowl.
• Where can we expect to see You Won’t live this year?
We’re doing a handful of shows in mid-February coinciding with the release of our album, and in March we’ll be touring our way down the east coast to SXSW. Hoping to hit the west coast not too long after that.
• Thanks and we hope to see you at SXSW (maybe even PORTALSXSW)!!! Cheers.